What a delightful weekend.
You know that excitement of being pleasantly surprised when expectations were low? That's the discovery of a new place.
Friday was an early morning and the flight had a few bumps but we arrived on time and got a fire engine red hot Mustang - brand new - from Hertz for our rental car. The hotel room was a suite for the price of a room. We felt spoiled.
Yesterday in the pouring rain we toured the huge Mall of America and had a great lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (of Forrest Gump) fame. Decorated with props from the movie, including signs at our table that said "Run, Forrest, Run" or "Stop, Forrest, Stop" and which ever one we showed would let the server know if we needed him to come by our table. Our shrimp "sampler" was big enough for us to share with some left over.
I got good deals on shoes and a handbag and we ordered a personalized sign for the rec room that actually isn't cheesy. We both picked up some new books at Barnes and Noble. I stayed up late reading my "field guide to writing poetry". :-)
Today was the gem. We slept in, enjoyed a hot breakfast buffet with every possible breakfast item one could want. Headed for the Minnesota Zoo - lovely! The sky was clear blue, the air was crisp, the sun was bright and there was a brisk wind. The zoo houses some rare species and some unusual sights, like wild turkeys that decided to make the zoo their home.
After the zoo we went on to downtown Minneapolis. What a wonderful collection of unusual and beautiful architectural designs in the buildings! i was so impressed and delighted. Another sweet addition was the Star Tribune newspaper's city-wide tribute to Charles Schultz, consisting of statues of various Peanuts characters scattered throughout the city created by various artists. I spotted Charlie Brown and Lucy outside the newspaper office, Snoopy and Woodstock near RiverCenter and Linus tending goal at Xcel Center where the Minnesota Wild NHL team plays.
We also drove past the tragic site of the I-35W bridge collapse from August 2007 where at least 13 people lost their lives. Construction is well underway for the new replacement bridge over the Mississippi River, which may be open as early as September.
We toured the State Capitol building in St. Paul - built in 1905 by Cass Gilbert, the same architect who designed the Supreme Court in Washington DC. Huge marble pillers and a rotunda second only in size to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. I have been in these types of buildings before and had forgotten the awe and breathtaking satisfaction of such a gloriously majestic work of engineering.
Then we were off to explore downtown St. Paul. We found a good parking spot near the Xcel Center and went wandering for a supper location. We saw a quiet storefront that advertised pizza and other italian specialties. The sign on the door said "Please use side entrance." When we walked in, we were met by lots of noisy diners and a huge line-up. We have happened upon the best Italian eatery in the region: Cosetta. The food was good, the atmosphere entertaining and the attached shop of Italian specialties (pasta, olive oil, chocolate, and more) was a nice finish. I picked up a hand painted ceramic bottle stopper.
Then the finale! We had tickets to watch the Minnesota Swarm vs. New York Titans (Lacrosse) in the divisional playoffs at the Xcel Center. What fun! Great arena - one of the best in all of professional sports.
Ah. Great day. Tomorrow on to St. Louis, and, for me - Branson.